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7 (Surprising) Health Benefits of Crocheting

Crochet is good for your health! Learning crafts like crochet can do more than you think for your mental well-being and happiness.

Arts and crafts are more than just a fun pastime, they’re truly healing and restorative and are actually very therapeutic. In fact, the healing benefits of crocheting (and knitting) are numerous.
 
These health benefits of learning a new craft like crochet range from simply calming you down and easing your stress to potentially relieving depression and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Learn our favorite 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Crocheting with this page of insights.

Crocheting doesn’t just help you if you’re the one who’s sick – it helps the caregivers around you, your friends and family that help you, love you and support you. It’s also a very good craft to pick up as a hobby for group therapy sessions, as you’re healing together in a group without having the focus completely on you.

There are so many benefits of crochet, so whether you’re stressed out and can’t sleep or are doing your part to help slow down Alzheimer’s, you’ll be doing yourself and your health a favor.

By focusing on something that’s easy, repetitive and soothing, like crochet projects, you can calm down your mind and body enough to let you fall asleep. So the next time you’re tossing and turning in the middle of the night, don’t get frustrated, just pick up a work in progress! 

When you’re feeling stressed or anxious in your daily life, take some time for yourself, pick up some yarn and your hook (or your needles), and spend some time being creative.

By crocheting and allowing yourself to be creative, you’re taking your mind off of whatever’s been nagging you. By focusing on the repetitive motions of individual stitches and counting rows, your mind is able to be more relaxed and free from anxious ideas and thoughts.

When you do something we like, our brains release dopamine, a chemical that affects our emotions and functions like a natural anti-depressant. Scientists now believe that crafts, such as crocheting, can help stimulate that dopamine release to allow us to feel happier and better about ourselves.

Crocheting can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 30-50%. By engaging in cognitive exercises and stimulating your mind, you can slow down or even prevent memory loss. Whether you plan on challenging your memory by learning a new stitch or technique or simply by reading and working up a pattern, by getting a little crafty, you’ll be helping preserve your memories.

We all want to feel productive and useful, and by working up a project to give as a gift or sell at a craft fair, we can do just that. Though we don’t craft just for the compliments, a little bit of external validation by someone buying your finished item or your gift recipient wearing that crochet hat you made all winter long can truly give us the self-esteem boosts we need.

For those who seek therapy benefits in group settings, crocheting can be supremely beneficial. By placing the focus off of the patient and only the crochet project itself, it provides all of the previously mentioned health benefits of crocheting plus a sense of community and togetherness.

By working in a craft, those in a group can immediately have some way of relating to the other group members, and it may help function as an ice breaker for more serious conversations. Even if you aren’t actively seeking therapy, you can benefit from the sense of community that crocheting can bring.

Whether you feel helpless as a caregiver watching someone struggle or you’re the one struggling with your own illness or problems, crocheting is a way to put the control back into your own hands – literally. By choosing to craft, you are in full control of everything, from the type of project you’ll be making, the color and type of yarn and even the type of crochet hooks to work with, and that makes a difference in feeling like you have a say again. 

Reference: Julia Wiatr, Editor, AllFreeCrochet.com

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching kids to eat well can be tricky. You don’t want to give them more facts than they can grasp or turn every meal into a lecture. But wait too long and they could pick up unhealthy habits in the meantime.

“Kids need to know that every food they put into their bodies affects them,” says Danelle Fisher, MD, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

Parents can get that message across by talking with kids about the food they put in their bodies, why it matters, and how they can learn to make the healthiest choices.

Make sure healthy foods are the default setting for your family’s meals, and get everyone involved in choosing some nutritious, tasty options. Take kids with you to the grocery store or farmers market. Younger kids can pick out fresh fruits and veggies. Older kids can take on larger roles like choosing recipes and making a shopping list.

Explain that they should fill half their plate with fruits and veggies that have nutrients that will help their bodies grow. The other half should be whole grains and lean protein that gives them energy to run, dance, and play. When you’re cooking or grocery shopping, show them different examples of these key food groups.

Kids should learn that all foods have a place in their diet. Label foods as “go,” “slow,” or “whoa.” Kids can “green light” foods like whole grains and skim milk they should have every day and “slow down” with less healthy foods like waffles. Foods with the least nutrition, such as french fries, don’t need to be off-limits, but kids should stop and think twice before they eat them often.

It’s not just what kids eat that matters, but how much. Even very young kids can learn that the amount of rice or pasta they eat should match the size of their fist. Protein should be palm-sized, and fats like butter or mayonnaise about the tip of their thumb. When you buy packaged foods, have kids help you find the serving size. Then talk about why sticking to it is a good idea.

Explain to older kids that while candy and cookies taste good, sugar can do their body more harm than good. (You can tell younger kids that too many sweets will make them feel “yucky.”) Then, offer fresh fruit for desserts and limit treats to two or three times a week to keep cravings for sweets in check.

We’re born knowing to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. But that’s easy to ignore when you’re surrounded by snacks and giant portions. To help kids listen to their bodies, don’t push them to have “one more bite” or clean their plate.  Turn off screens during meals, too. They distract kids from paying attention to how much they’re eating and when they’ve had enough.

If you push your kids to eat broccoli but never touch it yourself, you might need to take a closer look at your diet. Every bite you take matters. “Role modeling is one of the best ways to get your children onboard with healthier eating,” says Stephanie Middleberg, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Kids who eat meals with their family are more likely to eat healthy fruits, veggies, and whole grains. (They’re also less apt to snack on junk food.) You don’t need to lecture about nutrition while you eat. Make meals together fun. Turn on some music, choose silly games to play, or let kids invite a friend.

If you think your child needs to lose or gain weight, don’t put them on a diet. Instead, speak to his doctor. “Your pediatrician can help you discuss basic food groups, meal time behaviours, food portions, and weight,” Fisher says.

Reference: Stephanie Booth by GrowWebMD

10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

Research has shown that spending time outside is good for our bodies and our minds. I'm sure you've experienced these benefits: After feeling stressed out or bored indoors, you step outside and your spirits lift.

One great way to spend time outdoors is to garden. My dad always had a garden when I was a kid, and now I understand more about what drew him to it. I've always enjoyed being outside and gardening, but it took on special significance for me when I was recovering from an extended illness. As I began to recover, I felt compelled to greatly expand my garden beds and the things I planted, even though I was still struggling physically and mentally.

The experience seemed to accelerate my own healing. It felt like even as I was building the garden, it was helping me come back to life. One day as I stood in the afternoon sunlight and looked with amazement at all that had grown, I felt my own strength that had returned over the same stretch of time.

This personal experience, along with numerous studies about the positive effects of time outside, made me curious to explore the many benefits of gardening. Recently I discussed this topic on the Think Act Be podcast with professional gardener Joe Lamp'l, creator of joe gardener®. Here are 10 benefits of gardening that emerged from our conversation:

1. 

Most of our suffering comes from trying to control things that we can't. The more we can accept the limits of our control and the unpredictability of life, the more peace of mind we can find—and gardening is a great way to practice. "Every day is one more reminder from Mother Nature that I'm not in control," Lamp'l said, which he finds helpful as a self-described "control freak."

I learned to practice acceptance in my own garden as the first baby lettuces were ready to harvest in mid-April. I had looked forward to spending time in the garden with my family, but when my 4- and 8-year-old daughters asked if they could help me harvest the lettuce, I was less than enthusiastic. What if they "messed up" my carefully planted garden? What if they broke off the stem instead of a leaf?

Thankfully, I managed to get over myself and welcome them into the garden even with the possibility that they could break something. I realized that a "perfect garden" could wind up being a pretty lonely place, which wasn't my idea of perfection.

Acceptance in the garden or elsewhere doesn't mean giving up, of course. We bring our best efforts to what we can control, and we let go of the rest. With gardening that means "preparing the best environment you can possibly make for your plants," said Lamp'l, and allowing nature to take it from there. Your garden (like your life) is in bigger hands than yours.

2. 

If you're prone to perfectionism, you're probably well aware of the costs. Trying to make things perfect can lead to frustration, missed deadlines and opportunities, and strained relationships. It can also lead to not even trying to do something, with a mentality of "why bother if it can't be perfect?"

Given the lack of control we have, gardening can be a good antidote for perfectionism. No matter how carefully you plan and execute your garden, there are countless factors you can't predict—invasions by bugs, inclement weather, hungry rodents. Years ago one of our neighbors had a beautiful garden growing until a neighboring resident sprayed weed killer on a windy day, damaging many of my neighbor's vegetable plants.

Gardening offers an endless supply of these kinds of "neutralizers for perfectionism," as Lamp'l called them. He confessed to being a perfectionist himself and knows firsthand that "pursuit of perfection is a waste of time—especially in the garden. So don't bother!"

3. 

The inability to garden perfectly is actually cause for celebration. Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the distinction between "fixed" and "growth" mindsets, and gardening is a great opportunity to develop the latter. With a growth mindset, we assume that we're constantly learning. When something doesn't work out the way we had hoped, we view it as a learning opportunity rather than as a "failure."

We can even look forward to our mistakes. "I love making mistakes," said Lamp'l, "because I look at them as a chance to learn something new. Through those mishaps, you can understand what happened and why, and you can be empowered to relate that learning to new things." So more mistakes just mean more learning and more growing.

I certainly make my share of gardening mistakes and find a growth mindset to be so helpful. For example, this season I experimented with a seeding method that I didn't do quite right and ended up with plants that were overcrowded and nearly impossible to disentangle when it came time to put the seedlings in the garden beds. My initial reaction was to feel stress about needing to "do it the right way," and then I realized all I had to do was the best I could do, and I would learn something for my fall planting.

4. 

Few things boost our well-being like good relationships, and gardening offers ample opportunities to connect with others. Lamp'l noted that "gardening is one of the best ways to connect strangers" and quickly become friends "because we have that gardening thing in common."

I've experienced that quick connection myself when meeting other gardeners, and there's so much to talk about—not only the nuts and bolts of gardening but the emotional and spiritual connections we can experience with our gardens. "It's a collective effort," said Lamp'l, "and we're all better together when we share our experiences."

5. 

Gardening provides a connection not just to other people but to our world. Many people feel that connection in a visceral way when they eat food they've just harvested. "We all have an innate connection to the earth," said Lamp'l, "and that connection manifests itself when we consume what came from the ground—which is where we came from and where we all end up."

Having a garden really means having a relationship with the plot of ground you're tending. Since I've gotten more into gardening I've had to be much more aware of the elements: the first and last frosts of the season, how much rain we've had, the temperature, where sunlight falls throughout the day. Gardening also connects us intimately with the cycle of the seasons.

And as Lamp'l described, it's easy to feel "like a parent" to one's growing plants. "You nurture the seedlings and do everything you can for them," he said, "and then it's like you're putting your babies in the soil"—much as we might nurture a young child who eventually heads out to meet the world. "They don't call it a 'nursery' for nothing!" Lamp'l continued. "I put a lot of care and emotion into the garden."

6. 

The Japanese expression "shinrin-yoku" can be translated as "forest bathing," which nicely captures the experience of being immersed in green. A growing body of research has found all kinds of benefits from being in natural landscapes.

These studies have found evidence that being in green, or even being able to look out on a green landscape, is linked with better recovery from surgery, less anxiety and depression, better stress management, and many other positive effects.

The nice thing about a garden is that it can be right out your back door. And while you could just as easily spend time sitting in your yard, you're much more likely to be outside consistently when the work of a garden requires it.

7. 

Mindful presence is tied to a long list of positive outcomes, like relationship satisfaction and less emotional reactivity. The garden can be a protected place where we practice being where we are and actually doing what we're doing.

Lamp'l described finding his "Zen moment" in his garden, where he tunes in to his experience. For example, while he generally loves to listen to podcasts, he doesn't when he's in the garden. "That's sacred time for me," he said. "When I'm out there weeding, I want to hear the birds. I don't want to hear anything else. It's a quiet time, and I relish it."

I often find that centering effect in my own garden. Just last night after heavy rain I sat in my garden in the dying light of the day and took in what was around me. It was striking how quickly I felt a sense of ease.

8. 

Moving your body regularly is an effective way to boost mood and lower anxiety, and gardening offers "no shortage of opportunities for physical activity," said Lamp'l. Even when he's not able to get to the gym consistently, he maintains muscle tone and feels good through daily work in his garden.

The movements are varied, too, which may mean fewer repetitive use injuries compared to more structured exercise. "When I do my weeding, I'm on my belly, on my butt, lying on my side—doing a lot of things you probably do in a yoga class," he said. "I can give up my gym membership."

9. 

Not surprisingly, time in your garden can be a great way to release stress. There's something about feeling the life all around you, the warmth of the sun, the soil in your hands. As I sit in my own garden these days I see rainbow Swiss chard and lettuces shaking in the wind, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries ripening, and feel the breeze as clouds move across the blue sky.

Just don't forget to spend time simply being in your garden. There's always the next thing to do, as Lamp'l pointed out, so take time deliberately to step away from activity and experience what's around you.

10. 

Last but not least, a garden can yield the freshest and healthiest foods available—the types of food that can have a significant impact on our mental health. For example, two studies showed that dietary changes can be an effective treatment for depression.

Studies in this area tend to find benefits of the "Mediterranean" (and similar) diet, which emphasizes consuming minimally processed whole foods—exactly the types of food that your garden will yield. Plus there's the added benefit of knowing you played a role in growing the food.

 

How to Get Started

Ready to start a garden of your own? Here are six quick tips that Lamp'l recommends for beginners.

1. Just start. Decide that you're going to get started, even though you don't know how it's going to go or even exactly what you're doing. "Try it, and so what if you fail?" asked Lamp'l. "The worst that will happen is you'll learn something. And that's worth the price of a plant, every time."

2. Start slow. Lamp'l noted that it's easy to get excited when starting out and plant too much, which ends up being hard to keep up with. As a result, you could end up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. So get started, but don't overdo it. You can always add to your garden over time. A simple first step is to grow something in a container that you can put close to your house, so it's easy to take care of and enjoy seeing every day.  

3. Focus on healthy soil. Successful gardening starts literally from the ground up, according to Lamp'l. "Soil is life. When you focus on that, good things happen." He strongly advises gardeners to avoid synthetic chemicals and "start feeding the soil with organic material." That can include compost, the "single best thing you can add to the soil because there's so much in it," and anything else that nature provides, like shredded leaves, shredded bark, or aged manure. 

4. Grow what you like. Choose fruits and vegetables to grow based on "what you want to eat or what you like looking at," advised Lamp'l. "Grow something that's easy and that grows quickly, like a radish or lettuce." The ease and quick reward will be the motivation to stick with it. 

5. Know your plants' needs. "Learn something about the plant before you stick it in the ground," said Lamp'l. "Read the plant tag so you know if it likes sun or shade and wet or dry, and do your best to give it the environment it wants to thrive in." After all, plants can't move, so it's up to us to "put the right plant in the right place." Your plants will reward you for it. 

6. Pay attention to your plants. Spend at least a little time in your garden every day observing what's happening. That way you can "be proactive when problems arise and can circumvent potentially bigger problems," said Lamp'l. Besides, there's really no downside to spending time in your garden, given all the benefits discussed here

Reference: Seth J. Gillihan, PhD from Psychology Today